This is a tweet from SI yesterday reporting on President Obama’s 5.5 hour round of golf. Whilst I understand his rounds may look a little different to most amateurs, it highlights an aspect of the game that is hurting participation and enjoyment: slow play.
June is slow play month on the Golf Channel and throughout the next couple of weeks they will moaning about slow play and suggesting how the game can speed up.
As someone who has played at a high standard and worked in the game for years, it angers me to see the game slow down. Even driving around the course in golf carts, players still take 5+ hours to hack around 18 holes. I managed to play and walk 10 rounds of golf in one day, so I know I thing or two about how to play quick. So here’s my thoughts on pace of play and how to improve it:
Don’t Blame The Pros
I know this sounds contrary to what most believe, but I don’t think pros are the problem. Take Kevin Na for example at the 2012 Players Championship. Clearly he was talking long and struggling to pull the trigger… but he was also playing for $1,700,000. If I had that kind of cash on the line, I’d probably take my time too.
Here’s A Tip… Don’t Play From The Tips
If you’re learning to ski, you don’t head up to the double black diamonds after graduating the kids slope. Tees in golf are much the same. Playing from the tips tends to bring more yardage, trouble and headaches into play. Longer approaches, longer carries and generally a tougher round of golf. Don’t be embarrassed to play forward. Let you handicap guide your tee-choice.
I remember playing a game with 3 other scratch or better golfers where each player could tee off from the tiger tees, normal tees and ladies tees six times each. There is no rule against men playing from ladies tees. The strategy of shorter par-4s and 5s is actually very entertaining and good for your game. Have fun out there.
Thinking Long Is Thinking Wrong
I once heard a pro use that phrase to describe how he approaches pressure shots and putts. I like it. The longer you take thinking or preparing for a shot, the longer you have to think negatively.
Get to your shot, pick a club, pick a swing, pick a target and go. The best round I shot at my home course in Scotland was in preparation for my 10-round challenge. I shot 65 (-7) in under two hours. The mentality of making instinctual decisions and trusting my swing made the game easy. Read it, roll it, hole it.
GPS = Golfers Preventing Slowplay
If you’re serious about the game and honestly think you have a different swing for 161 yards compared to 164 yards, spend the money and get a GPS device. Laser, GPS watch, an iPhone app, whatever it is, it will help your game and should help you play faster.
To the guy who paces out his 262 yard approach, only to top the ball to 251 yards out… c’mon man!
This concept may be a little out there, but I believe it could help speed up the game. Along with entering your score or scorecard at the end of the round, why not start requiring players to enter their round-time. This would allow the Clubs and the players to manage slower golfers and making the times public would encourage slower players to keep up with friends and other players at the club. Penalties or charity-fines could be implemented to ensure players meet time requirements.
I know of one traditional, well respected golf club in Scotland that does this. Anyone taking longer that 3.5 hours for a competitive round has their name entered into a book, and is essentially issued a strike. Three strikes and you sent a letter and suspended from entering the next competition. All players are aware of the rule and the rule allows more than ample time to enjoy a round and play well.
That’s all I have to rant about today. Probably inspired by a recent 5.5 hour round I endured in Florida. The round was so slow in fact, that myself and my partner took time between the 8th and 9th holes to drive our golf cart through a nearby drive-thru to get a couple of well-deserved milkshakes (it was about 90 degrees out).